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The Deal on Firing - Part 1

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Just as I spoke about in the last blog post on hiring, recruiting, and staffing being a function of a larger strategic vision - so is firing. Unfortunately, people aren't always applying for and hired in to the right roles. As well, companies are frequently bringing people on who may have a fantastic CV (written by an expert with all the correct trigger words for search), pedigree, and interviewing skills, but then they are just lost at sea upon entry. All you have to do is open HBR, Inc., or Forbes to see how much is being discussed about bad hiring and everyone from executive level leadership to college grads falling short or sinking upon entry and asking the question "why?" Well, we know why... (go to earlier post on Hiring to see the answer to "Why?")

Ok, so to keep this initial post on firing simple, here are a few rules to live by when you think you've hired in someone who isn't going to make it.


When you realize a new hire isn't seeming like a good match, acknowledge your gut feeling and say it out loud to whomever is your confidante. All too often, people deny the actuality of the hiring decision and want to avoid the truth because it's easier than confronting it. When you acknowledge and say it out loud, you are in effect beginning the process of acting on next steps. Confidentiality is imperative here so you don't create unnecessary gossip or undermine yourself in your role. Denying the situation on the other hand poisons the well and kills culture so acknowledging is key and so very strategically important.

Collect Data.

Check-in with the team to collect data on how it's going for them. You can and should do this in a way that is neutral by not indulging in gossip but rather ask "what is working?", "what isn't working?", "what can or do we need to be doing better?" More than likely, you are receiving this data informally without having to go out and get it but it's also a good practice to ask. Allow the data in without overlaying it with your judgments and narratives. This way, you can really hear what people are trying to tell you.

Assess What is Being Said.

What are you hearing as a general consensus? Are most people saying the same thing? What are the patterns? What are the pain points related to the new hire?

Ask Yourself Some Questions.

Is the situation fixable? Is it organizational, structural or role definition issues versus competency? Do you need to better clarify expectations? Are the right supports in place to actually help with onboarding?Are the pain points around trainable? Is it a bad culture match? Does the person need more hand-holding and nurturing than the organization has the capacity to provide? Are the skills that are falling short adaptive skills versus technical skills? How deeply is the person falling short on the adaptive skill spectrum?

Create a Plan/Strategy.

Once you have analysed the situation and asked yourself the hard questions, move on to a plan around the situation. Again, this forces you to act rather than wallow so as not to poison the well (or be inconsiderate toward the new hire.)


1. Address the person and talk about what is working and what isn't working.

2. Acknowledge with the person that there are issues and concerns and create a short-term plan to rectify while acknowledging that it might not work.

3. Decide on a timeline within which you will make a final decision. Make it a tight timeline. This goes for whether you are in a dialog with the person or have chosen not to dialog with them about it. Timing is key and quickness is highly recommended.

4. Within that timeline, make a final decision and address the termination.

5. End it. Be humane and kind. 95% of the time, the error is on the part of the organization, its leadership, and the people doing the hiring because they have fallen short with attending to the bigger picture strategy and securing a rock-solid hiring process leading to insufficient hiring.

There is a prince for every princess so everyone fits somewhere and everyone fits well when organizations are doing the work to strategically think about who they are and how to attract the best talent for their particular organization.

While firing is a really unfortunate loop to get into, it is also a reality to running a company. The first step is to engage a strategic and well-thought out hiring process that syncs with the company's vision, purpose, mission, culture, communication, and leadership strategy. When you do, you begin to attract the right talent and stem off the firing loop. At the same time, you might still have to fire at times. When you find that you do, step back to acknowledge, collect data, assess the data, ask good and hard questions of yourself and your team, and then engage a conscious plan around ending the relationship. And in the process, be human, kind, and humble. While your organization might not be the one for that particular person at that particular time and for that particular role, there certainly is an organization that is.


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